Do you find it difficult to write about summer gardening? I do. I feel the same way about summer after July 4th that I do about winter after December 25th. I love the two holidays, but the weather tends to get worse after each.
Summer in Oklahoma isn’t any fun. The plants know it. Gardeners know it. Even professional weather prognosticators know it. The only creatures who like an Oklahoma summer after the fireworks are the pollinators–but do they really? In July and August, pollinators work so hard they seem to know they don’t have much time. The only reason I garden in summer is for them–oh, and tomatoes and okra. I do like tomatoes and okra. A lot.
Where I live, we joke about summer. We call it Hell. It is hot, dry and dusty most years, but I did have a couple of popup storms, complete with lightning show, night before last. They wet the Earth’s whistle for a day or two. Just because it rains doesn’t mean you don’t need to water–especially the pots. They dry out in a day, rain or not.
I’ll be glad to see summer go even though my days pass faster and faster as the years go by. As summer sighs into August, and the kids go back to school, my garden is full of daisy-like flowers waving their heads goodbye. Summer is the season of the sunflower, daisy or composite family, Asteraceae. These simple flowers are pollinator favorites because they are full of nectar. ‘Becky’ shasta daisies holding their white flowers aloft on their strong, straight stems. No flopping like ‘Alaska’ and other varieties. I think I’ll remove ‘Alaska’ this year. It no longer earns its place because it sprawls into the pathway. I can only stake so much.
Perennial blackeyed Susans, Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm,’ are at their peak. There is no easier flower to grow in a prairie garden than ‘Goldsturm,’ but in a wet year like 2015, it will try to take over. Cut it back after flowering so it won’t reseed and remove any plants straying into another’s territory. Otherwise, you’ll have three or four next year where now one resides. I usually do some thinning after I cut them back. Thinning in spring is easier though.
Sunflowers are still putting on new faces too, and the bees appreciate them. Zinnias are beloved by the butterflies. Both make a summer garden happier even when I don’t want to be outside.
While we’re indoors hunkered down under the ceiling fan, let’s start planning for fall which is right around the corner. In the early morning, go out and look at your garden for places that are bare. Summer is hard on plants and people, and you may have lost some things. Will an ornamental grass work in that spot? How about an aster, or a garden mum like ‘Sheffield?’
Maybe you’ll want more structure from a shrub or tree. Fall is a great time to plant a garden’s bones. Just don’t forget to water them in the winter. Any days over 40F, their roots are growing. Try to water them at least once a month if weather permits.
My garden will be on tour on October 17 courtesy of the Oklahoma Horticultural Society. The annual tour benefits Oklahoma college students studying horticulture. So, if you’ve wanted to visit, this would be a good time. Also, if you want a book, I can sign some for you too.
Hunker down, summer is nearly over, and beautiful fall is right around the corner. I can hardly wait.